Birthdays are very arbitrary markers, but they always seem to suck me into introspection. This one is particularly bad. Partly, that's simply the age itself -- it's almost the standard definition of "over the hill". Mostly, though, it's by comparison to five years ago.
35 was a really significant birthday in my eyes. That's mostly the fault of Dante, specifically the footnotes to (IIRC) the Ciardi translation of the Inferno, which note that Dante's invocation of "midway through life's journey" probably referred to age 35. It was early in 2000; the Long Boom was only just starting to Bust; the Millennium Eve Disaster had passed with nary a whisper of problems, and it was a generally optimistic time. I had made huge progress professionally, doubling my salary in a few years and moving up to a relatively high position. I was just starting to think hard about my Big Projects: hungrytiger and I had recently designed the broad strokes of Tabula Rasa III, I was making some progress on the outline of my play, and the Mysteries Project had come to me in the quiet of the night about six weeks earlier.
Five years on, I feel like I've been standing still; worse, I feel like I've lost ground. Trenza crashed and burned; Buzzpad failed through bad timing; Convoq still looks like it has a fighting chance, but I'm still not in the Architect position I think I should have at this point. Through a succession of distractions, and an increasingly-pervasive burnout and exhaustion, I've made precious little progress on any of the Projects -- even TRIII has been largely in a holding pattern, although it is ever-so-slowly coalescing.
The problem, of course, is partly ego and ambition -- I have a deep-seated feeling that I should be Doing Something. Perhaps it's the lack of children that drives the desire to make a particular difference in the world on my own; I dunno. Regardless of the reason, the lack of progress sits poorly with me.
The difficulty is that I'm not even entirely sure where I've gone off the tracks. The feeling of always being rushed and yet never having the time to actually *do* anything is very powerful, and has much to do with my lack of accomplishment. I don't feel like I'm doing much more than I used to, but intellectually it seems like I must be, simply from how little spare time I seem to have relative to ten years ago. Odds are that the difference is incremental: a few more SCA activities and responsibilities than I used to have; more media distractions (Internet-based ones in particular, but also probably a little more TV); an acceptance of slightly longer hours at work as I develop more sense of ownership of my projects.
Given that I'm deeply unwilling to entirely sacrifice any of those, I need to do some real trimming on all of them. Giving up the Magisterium last week was probably a good first step, as was an agreement with msmemory to drop a couple of TV shows. More is needed all around, paring things back until I no longer feel like my schedule is a bucking stallion, that I have to hold on to for dear life.
More generally, I have to lower my stress levels. My doctor has officially declared me "pre-hypertense", and I can't say I'm surprised -- I can tell when my blood pressure is spiking, and it does so far more than it used to. Partly, that's just a matter of taking better care of myself physically -- getting back to the gym regularly helps a good deal, and an elliptical machine is very high on my post-move purchase list. But a lot of it is figuring out how to mellow out again. I used to be pretty centered, but I've gone way off-balance in recent years; I need to find my way back to that. My doctor has been pushing me to take up yoga for years now, and while I'm loathe to commit to yet another potential time sink, I suspect it's a Very Good Idea.
In theory, lowering the stress should help with the exhaustion that has been destroying me for the past year or so. I've been mildly insomniac for ages, but it's become much more serious of late. Oddly, I don't feel like I'm sleeping as badly -- since getting back to the gym, I'm not spending nearly as much time awake at night. But I'm suffering from a soul-deep exhaustion on every level: burned out both physically and emotionally, and just plain sleepy half the time. I'm so tired I literally feel just plain stupid much of the time, unable to focus and suffering real memory issues. That exhaustion is pretty well destroying me, albeit ever-so-gradually.
Really, what I need as much as anything is a couple of just-plain-good months. This past year has been something of a horror for me. It's not that any one thing has been so awful -- rather, it's a feeling of trying to walk on wet ice, getting knocked over again every time I think I'm recovering my equilibrium. I've reached and passed the limits of my resilience, and desperately need a little time to catch my breath, without more bad news every couple of weeks. I've become almost phobic about smiling: every time things seem to be going well, something goes wrong and I slip again.
I'm not precisely depressed, although there's a definite element of that. I *am* incredibly tired in all respects, and disquiet in a very fundamental way. My base mood has acquired a tint of melancholy that I'm unfamiliar with, and really don't much like. When I look at myself in the mental mirror, I see someone who is older than he should be. (Getting physically old doesn't bother me that much; getting emotionally old does.) Indeed, part of the problem is that I'm not even sure why it's all getting under my skin so badly this year. But I can't deny that it's doing so.
*Sigh*. All right, enough whining. I really do need to figure out where my usual sunny optimism has escaped to, and recapture it again...